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Prayer Possible

March 28, 2011

Prayer Possible

Junior Bashair Alazadi prays five times a day but had no place to worship. Although Pacific Lutheran University has designated areas, like Tower Chapel, for Christian students to pray, there was no space specifically set aside for students of other faiths.

“I’m a Shia Muslim,” Alazadi said. “And I found from my first year at PLU that I could spend the entire day on campus and not find a comfortable place to pray.”

Concerned that on-campus students and commuter students of diverse faiths would find themselves in similar situations, Alazadi decided to bring a request to the Diversity Center. She wanted PLU to consider creating a place where students of diverse faiths could worship freely—a place for prayer, meditation, and reflection.

“I was proposing that PLU create a place for religious tolerance, a place where discussion would be welcome and where dialogue and understanding of one another’s religious beliefs and practices would flourish,” Alazadi said. “A learning environment.”

Campus Ministries and the Diversity Center embraced Alazadi’s proposal immediately and planning for what has since became known as the Reflection Room began, which is now open in Eastvold. While the building is under renovations access can be gained during off hours through Campus Safety.

The Reflection Room is actually a series of offices in Eastvold that allow for students to use them for prayer, reflection and worship.

“The idea of creating a Reflection Room had been tossed around by us every time there was a discussion about remodeling Eastvold,” said Rev. Dennis Sepper, University Pastor. “PLU and Lutheran higher education put such a high emphasis on pluralism and diversity that I believe if we’re going to invite students of different faith traditions to our school, we should at least minimally provide for their spiritual needs in terms of a space to pray.”

But according to Sepper, it wasn’t until Alazadi spoke to the diversity center that the idea got pushed off the back burner. Both Sepper and Alazadi hope the Reflection Room will not only provide students from various faith traditions a place to worship but will also increase religious understanding on campus, giving the campus a more welcoming atmosphere.

“Our hope down the road is that the Reflection Room will be a space that will welcome seekers who want to know more about the various faith traditions,” Sepper said. “We hope to build a bit of a library outside the room so that students could access books on the various faith traditions.”

The library space would provide devotional and informational books on a variety of religions and religious practices.
“If you wanted to know more about Islam without taking a course in Islam, it would be a resource,” Sepper said.

To make creation of the Reflection Room possible, Campus Ministries and the Diversity Center partnered with ASPLU and RHA to find a space to house the room and to fund the project. Construction of the Reflection Room is now complete.

“Our goal was to find a space on campus that was accessible and visible but still had a sense of privacy,” said Angie Hambrick, director of the Diversity Center.

Sepper would like to see the Reflection Room become a sacred space for students. “That’s our immediate concern,” he said.  “What we want to immediately accomplish.”

Sepper said that he and the rest of Campus Ministries are excited about the Reflection Room. “It makes a great statement for PLU,” he said. “We are a place that really embraces a diversity of people. It aligns with our values. Everybody counts and everybody has a place. And we’ll just see if it gets used. That’ll be the real test. Our hope is that it will.”